Solicitor General for Scotland

– in the Scottish Parliament at 1:24 pm on 28th November 2001.

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Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament 1:24 pm, 28th November 2001

Our final item of business before we break for lunch is motion S1M-2493, in the name of the First Minister, to appoint the Solicitor General for Scotland.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 1:32 pm, 28th November 2001

I thank the Presiding Officer for accepting this motion as it was lodged later than the two motions that we have already debated.

I will begin by thanking Neil Davidson for tendering his resignation. He is a close personal friend and, over the past year and a half, he has made a real contribution to the post of Solicitor General. I wish him very well.

The time is right for a change in our approach to the appointment of the Solicitor General. The time is right to have a Solicitor General for Scotland who is not associated with a political party. The time is right to change the perception and reality of the job and to focus on modernisation and reform of the prosecution service. That matters a great deal to the constituents of each and every member right across Scotland.

Last week, I said that I want to tackle crime effectively. Part of the important improvement in the public perception of our work and of the work of the Government and other authorities in Scotland is improvement of the public perception of our legal system, which has to be reliable, effective and to tackle priorities in the immediate period that lies ahead. For that reason, I am delighted to be able to recommend to Parliament this afternoon and thereafter to recommend to the Queen the appointment of a new Solicitor General for Scotland.

The appointment that I am recommending is of a Solicitor General who will be ground breaking and who will make a real difference to the prosecution service and to the image of the legal profession in Scotland. Elish Angiolini will be the first woman Solicitor General for Scotland. She will be the first solicitor to hold the post and the first procurator fiscal to hold the post. She has spent a lifetime of work in the prosecution service. She set up the first victim liaison service for the Procurator Fiscal Service in Scotland. She is committed to the rights and needs of ordinary people the length and breadth of Scotland. I have every confidence in her ability to do the job. I hope that the Parliament will support unanimously her appointment and will wish her well in the task that lies ahead of her.

Elish Angiolini's appointment is a fresh approach that will make a symbolic change for Scotland, but the change is not just symbolic. Elish Angiolini has been an outstanding and experienced procurator fiscal. She is a quality solicitor and she will be an excellent Solicitor General for Scotland. I hope that the whole Parliament will give her its support today.

I move,

That the Parliament agrees that it be recommended to Her Majesty that Elish Angiolini be appointed as Solicitor General for Scotland.

Photo of Lord James Selkirk Lord James Selkirk Conservative 1:35 pm, 28th November 2001

I have one simple question for the First Minister. If it takes only a few minutes to lodge this motion of appointment and have it approved, why did it take nearly two months for the Lord President and Lord Justice General to be appointed, despite the fact that that post was vacant and there was a pressing need for that appointment to be made? After all, if a law officer can be appointed so speedily and effectively, is it not right and just that the top legal position in Scotland should be treated with similar urgency?

Lord President and Lord Justice General Cullen is one of Britain's most outstanding judges. He chaired three incredibly difficult inquiries—into Dunblane, Piper Alpha and a relatively recent railway tragedy—with enormous effectiveness and skill. The Conservatives are very much in favour of women being appointed on merit. Indeed, I could not say otherwise, since my mother-in-law was one of the first women MPs and my life would not be worth living were I to deny that principle. However, I suggest to the First Minister that while we will not oppose the appointment, we feel strongly that top legal appointments in Scotland should be made on merit and reasonably speedily. We feel the recent case of the Lord Justice General was not treated with the urgency it deserved.

Photo of Rt Hon Jack McConnell Rt Hon Jack McConnell Labour 1:36 pm, 28th November 2001

It is important to say on record that, for both of those appointments, it was important to carry out appropriate consultations. It would have been very wrong for immediate political appointments to be made or recommended in any other way. The way in which Lord Cullen carried out his duties in advance of carrying out those duties in that interim period should be welcomed and praised by the Parliament, rather than criticised. That process was carried out properly and thoroughly. It is not an accurate comparison with the appointment that we are making here today.

There is a duty on the First Minister to make a recommendation to the Parliament so that a recommendation on the appointment of a Solicitor General for Scotland can be made to the Queen. Last weekend, I consulted the Lord Advocate. We discussed the matter again on Monday night and we are here today to make a recommendation.

Mrs Angiolini is currently the regional procurator fiscal for Grampian and the Highlands and Islands. She is a senior member of the Procurator Fiscal Service. She advised the Government on the Scotland Act 1998 and on European human rights legislation. She has an excellent track record and an excellent reputation throughout the profession for the work that she has carried out in the past. I believe that she will be an excellent Solicitor General for Scotland.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton's final point is the most important one: this recommendation is being made to the Parliament on merit. Elish Angiolini is independent of any political party. She is an excellent procurator fiscal who will serve Scotland well in reforming and modernising the prosecution service. I believe that this is a fresh approach and a new move for Scotland that will be widely welcomed by ordinary people the length and breadth of the country. I hope that the Parliament supports that today and enthusiastically welcomes her when she joins us in future.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

The question is, that motion S1M-2493, in the name of the First Minister, on the appointment of the Solicitor General for Scotland, be agreed to.

Motion agreed to.

That the Parliament agrees that it be recommended to Her Majesty that Elish Angiolini be appointed as Solicitor General for Scotland.

Photo of Lord David Steel Lord David Steel Presiding Officer, Scottish Parliament

I declare that the Parliament has agreed to the First Minister's recommendation that he recommend to Her Majesty that she appoint Elish Angiolini as Solicitor General for Scotland.

Meeting suspended until 14:30.

On resuming—